A Look Back at 2018: A Milestone Year for Cybersecurity in Asia Pacific

A Look Back at 2018: A Milestone Year for Cybersecurity in Asia Pacific

Written by: Kunal Sehgal, executive director, FS-ISAC Asia Pacific

As we enter the new year, I want to take a moment to reflect on the banner year that was 2018. This past November marked the one-year anniversary of the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Centre’s (FS-ISAC) Asia Pacific (AP) hub and I fondly remember when the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) officially inaugurated the AP office. The expansion to the AP region is a sentiment to the growing collaboration between the entire financial services sector to fight cyberattacks as one.

Singapore’s Opening Means 24/7 Coverage for the Entire Sector

For FS-ISAC to be successful at protecting the financial services sector against cybercrime, collaboration is key. The opening of the AP operations centre enables 24/7 threat and incident coverage in conjunction with our main US headquarters in Reston, VA, ultimately leading to better protection of the sector as a whole.

I’ll never forget our response, in late 2017 to a cyberincident involving global messaging and payments networks, that resulted in large fraudulent payments from a leading Asian bank. FS-ISAC was able to gather key critical information quicker than local law enforcement and government responders, through the cooperation of our regional membership. Overcoming the language barrier, FS-ISAC and its regional members were able to sift through the noise of the local media, connect the dots, translate the information and share it with our worldwide membership.


(2018 AP Summit in Singapore)

With every new member, there is the opportunity to share more about the threats they are facing and to learn from each other, so that we’re stronger globally. I’m so proud to say that our AP hub now supports 55 member institutions across 13 countries in the region. We’ve conducted 13 member meetings across the AP region, many of them at full capacity. Moreover, we continue to hold monthly threat calls to identify top cybersecurity concerns and the most effective ways to address them.

Targeted Trainings and Opportunities to Connect Face-to-Face

This past year, FS-ISAC brought the Cyber-Attack Against Payment Systems (CAPS) exercise to the region for the third time. We saw more than a 40 percent jump in attendance. The CAPS scenario stimulated a cyberattack and challenged incident response teams to practice mobilizing quickly, working under pressure, critically apprising information, connecting the cyberdots to defend against an attack and to find gaps in their processes to build stronger response plans.

FS-ISAC also hosted its third annual AP Summit in Singapore this past July and we look forward to hosting again this coming July 10-11. Security leaders from across the financial services sector and across the globe gathered to solve cyber and physical security threats facing Singapore and the broader region. The AP Summit’s attendance rose by 70 percent amid growing pressure and responsibilities put on security professionals from increased government and industry regulations and corporate boards.

At the Summit we witnessed the signing of a collaboration in AP between FS-ISAC and the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA). This partnership has helped us advance information sharing and collaborate on joint cyberexercises to protect the country’s financial services sector.

Other Areas of Growth

  • Increase of member Portal usage by 13%: This showcases how our members are better connected with the community. Member organizations are seeing the value in sharing their cyberthreat intelligence. The trust within the community is improving and this helps ensure that collectively we can defend ourselves. 
  • Launch of the CEntral banks, REgulators and Supervisory entities (CERES Forum) Forum: The CERES Forum is an information sharing group for central banks, regulators and supervisory entities to share information impacting global cybersecurity and resiliency. The Forum is a standalone with its own secure portal and processes to ensure members’ confidentiality. CERES Forum is the first such global platform bringing together these entities to guard against ever-growing cyber and physical threats and to meet their unique needs. We not only launched CERES Forum, but also added six new members in Asia this year.
  • Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) Congress sessions: Hosting two gatherings this year in the region, the CISOs met face-to-face and weighed in on the most critical cyberdefense methods, frequency of cyberpreparedness reporting to their respective boards of directors and the current cyber chain of command within their respective financial organizations. The sessions serve as an ideal opportunity to bring this critically important group together to discuss common challenges.
  • Support to raise talent and diversity: With women being underrepresented in the cybersecurity workforce, this past July we awarded five outstanding young women with our FS-ISAC Building Cybersecurity Diversity Scholarship. I’m also proud to say here in the AP office we run a growing internship program and have mentored six rising professionals.

As we look ahead in 2019, FS-ISAC remains steadfast in our commitment to maintain the strong momentum we have built over the last year. We are proud of the community we have built here in AP - a community that can only become stronger and more secure as participation continues to rise. We look forward to the coming year and the opportunity to nurture and expand the relationships we have in AP and pledge to capitalize on our vital mission to make financial services more secure in this region and beyond.